sister and mother and diviner love,
and of the sisterhood of the living dead
most near, most clear, and of the clearest bloom,
and of the fragrant mothers the most dear
and queen, and of diviner love the day
and flame and summer and sweet fire, no thread
of cloudy silver sprinkles in your gown
its venom of renown, and on your head
no crown is simpler than the simple hair.
now, of the music summoned by the birth
that separates us from the wind and sea,
yet leaves us in them, until earth becomes,
by being so much of the things we are,
gross effigy and simulacrum, none
gives motion to perfection more serene
than yours, out of our imperfections wrought,
most rare, or ever of more kindred air
in the laborious weaving that you wear.
for so retentive of themselves are men
that music is intensest which proclaims
the near, the clear, and vaunts the clearest bloom,
and of all vigils musing the obscure,
that apprehends the most which sees and names,
as in your name, an image that is sure,
among the arrant spices of the sun,
o bough and bush and scented vine, in whom
we give ourselves our likest issuance.
yet not too like, yet not so like to be
too near, too clear, saving a little to endow
our feigning with the strange unlike, whence springs
the difference that heavenly pity brings.
for this, musician, in your girdle fixed
bear other perfumes. on your pale head wear
a band entwining, set with fatal stones.
unreal, give back to us what once you gave:
the imagination that we spurned and crave.
(from Stevens, Collected Poetry & Prose, pp. 70-71)
* * * * *
This is apparently one of Stevens' signature pieces. From it Ronald Sukenik took the title of his book "Musing the Obscure." And didn't someone else take, "Feigning with the Strange Unlike?" I like this poem because I find echoes of Stevens' earlier, more 'classical' poetry blended with many of the notes of his own unique fugue.
I like that he sees poetry as 'out of our imperfections wrought,' and that it isn't 'renown' that is the motivation of the poet, rather 'on your head/no crown is simpler than the simple hair.' This poem, like most of Stevens' poems, bears repeated reading.
I will attempt to read what some of the scholars have had to say about this poem, and will add to the post over the next couple of days.